Plaintiffs' attorney Allen Smith fell ill during opening statements in the fourth talcum powder trial, forcing a new jury selection.
By Laurence Banville
The fourth talc powder trial to proceed in a Missouri state court was delayed after a plaintiffs' attorney representing ovarian cancer patient Nora Daniels suffered a "medical episode" during opening statements, Courtroom View Network reports.
Talc Trial Postponed 4 Days For New Jury SelectionOnly five minutes after beginning his remarks, attorney Allen Smith became unsteady at the podium. The Honorable Rex Burlison, presiding over the case, immediately instructed the jury to leave the courtroom and ordered for courtroom cameras to be shut off.
In subsequent interviews, a spokesperson for Smith's legal team said the court was planning to select an entirely new jury. The trial began anew, complete with a freshly-selected jury, on February 10, 2017. Ted Meadows, serving as co-counsel with Smith, delivered the opening statement in the ailing attorney's place.
Patient Says Talc Caused Ovarian CancerNora Daniels, now 56-years-old, says she began using Johnson and Johnson's talcum powder products as a young woman, shortly after turning 20. Those decades of use, she claims, led to the development of an aggressive ovarian cancer. Like thousands of other plaintiffs, Daniels was shocked to learn that medical researchers had begun to question the safety of talc-based products over four decades ago, after a team of UK scientists found particles of the mineral embedded in ovarian tumors.
In her lawsuit, Daniels accuses both Johnson and Johnson and major talc supplier Imerys of concealing this research from the public, sowing misinformation and outright lies in an attempt to profit off the health of unknowing consumers. As Ted Meadows advised members of the jury in his opening statement, "the love of money results in all manner of evil. You're gonna see it."
J&J Shuffles Defense Counsel To End Losing StreakJohnson & Johnson denies these allegations, but has yet to convince a Missouri state court jury that its own account of events is true. The company has lost three consecutive cases heard by jurors in Missouri.
In fact, Johnson & Johnson's string of defeats led the company to request a change of venue. In an appeal to Missouri's Supreme Court, defense attorneys asked for the majority of 2,500 talc lawsuits to be transferred out of the St. Louis court in which they are currently pending. The State's highest court rejected the proposal, affirming the right of plaintiffs to file their claims in a central location.
Hoping to change its luck, the company has bounced between defense firms, but seen little improvement in outcomes so far. Attorneys from legal giant Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough were unsuccessful at defending against a talcum powder case in October of 2016, losing Johnson & Johnson a judgment of $70 million. Lawyers from Butler Snow LLP had suffered a similar defeat only 5 months earlier, to the tune of $55 million. Now, the global healthcare giant has tapped attorneys at Proskauer Rose LLP, an international leader in corporate law.
Allen Smith has argued three previous talc cases, in which women accuse Johnson & Johnson of concealing decades of evidence that the powder product could cause ovarian cancer. The attorney has already secured $197 million in compensation for women and their families.